Five Valuable Tips as You Prepare to File FAFSA

Breanna Sykes, a Wealth Advisor with our affiliated wealth planning firm *Copper Leaf Financial, has published a new article with tips for preparing to file FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which opens October 1st. The article, published on LinkedIn, provides key considerations including:

1. File early

FAFSA applications open on October 1st, and you should file the year before your child attends college. Note that some states award grants on a first come first served basis so file early to make sure you aren’t missing out.

Did you know? Students who file within the first 3 months tend to get twice as many grants on average as students who file later.

2. Plan early

Income required on the FAFSA application is from 2 years prior (2021 for the 2023-2024 FAFSA).

If you plan early enough, you have time to minimize income and assets. You can offset capital gains with losses, incur planned expenses to minimize savings, or structure retirement plan income for later.

Did you know?

  • Every $10k reduction in parent income will increase aid eligibility by about $3k
  • Every $10k reduction in student income will increase aid eligibility by about $5k.

3. Save Smart

Consider saving as early as possible to take advantage of compounding interest – even if you start small! Starting early with a small amount can have a bigger impact than waiting until you think you have more to put towards the goal every month. Ask grandparents if they already have 529 accounts open or if they would be willing to open one. Some states offer tax credits for contributions to 529 plans, so saving early could also save you on taxes.

Did you know?

  • Money in a student’s name is calculated at a higher percentage than if it were in a parent’s name (20% vs 5.64%).
  • Grandparent 529 accounts are no longer reportable assets or income (starting for the 2023-2024 year).
  • Every $10k in student assets reduces eligibility by $2k.
  • Every $10k in parent assets reduces aid eligibility by up to $564.

4. Spend Smart

If you qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) make sure you spend $4k of expenses out of pocket, not through the 529, to maximize the benefit. You cannot double dip with the same qualified expenses by receiving a tax credit and tax-free 529 distribution.

5. Financial Aid Appeals

You must appeal directly with the college, so it’s up to the specific college’s financial aid administrator to accept or deny your appeal. To begin, you might contact the college you are looking to appeal with and ask about their process.

Did you know?

  • Colleges can no longer have a policy to deny all financial aid appeals.
  • You can appeal for special circumstances that caused drastically different tax returns in the prior year to your current situation.
  • Are you interested in finding out about more funding your child’s college education? Click here to view Breanna’s article “Five Ways to Pay for College”.
  • Recipients should not act on the information presented without seeking prior professional advice. Check with your tax advisor about your specific situation or click here to reach out to us at Davis & Hodgdon CPAs.
  • Copper Leaf Financial works with clients as they navigate the college funding process. They know how to manage college costs, increase aid eligibility, determine appropriate savings plans, and generally make the process as affordable and comfortable as possible. Call them today at (802) 878-2731 to schedule a complimentary strategy session.


*Copper Leaf Financial is an affiliated and separately registered entity.

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